Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elizabeth Olin, Diana Lyubenova
Written by: Evan Daugherty
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, some torture, and language including some sexual references
Running Time: 91
Date: 07/12/2013

Killing Season (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Stalk and a Hard Place

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Mark Steven Johnson has so far made bad comedies (When in Rome), bad superhero movies (Daredevil and Ghost Rider) and a bad sentimental weepie (Simon Birch), and now he turns his attention to Killing Season, a dramatic thriller with serious overtones of war and genocide. The main problem is that he doesn't seem to know how to mix ghoulish, superficial torture sequences with horrific flashbacks to the war. To sum it up in one word, it just feels wrong.

Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) survived a tour of the Bosnian War, but has retreated to a cabin deep in the woods, living a simple existence, photographing animals, reading Hemingway, and going to bed early. Meanwhile, a Serb, Emil Kovac (John Travolta) -- who encountered Benjamin during the war -- has spent years looking for him and has finally found him. At first he seems friendly enough, sharing his Jagermeister and talking the night away. But the next morning, he has planned a deadly hunt with bows and arrows in the woods, and Benjamin is his prey. Fortunately, Benjamin is not an easy quarry to catch, and soon each man is using every skill at his disposal to survive and defeat the other.

Oddly, the movie's best part comes when these two cinema greats are simply talking, before the hunt begins. Travolta, especially, is weirdly captivating with his thick Serbian accent, and an odd Abraham Lincoln-like beard. Both Travolta and De Niro have played psychopaths before, and they both know how to play this game with one another; their relationship is believable. It's too bad they're so wasted in this puzzling, unpleasant movie.

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